In time for the London 2012 Olympics, adidas launched their latest technology, the adiZero Primeknit. adiZero Primeknit employs just one thread knitting the entire upper – wrapping the shoe around the foot. Engineered stiffness controls stretch and support, while knitted grid patterns in distinct zones provide ventilation making this a quite unique design. I sat down with designer James Carnes to find out more about the technology and the games.


James Oliver / Can you talk about your position at adidas?

James Carnes / As the Head of Creative Direction for the Sport Performance Division at adidas, I have the opportunity to lead (and be led by) 300+ extraordinary designers worldwide.

James Oliver / How has your approach to design grown since working at adidas?

James Carnes / I started working at adidas as a footwear design intern in 1994. A lot has changed since then. Personally, my approach to design has changed fundamentally in various ways. For instance, Design has become much more of a collaborative endeavor for me. I’ve learned that it requires the passion of so many people with different life experiences and ambitions to make a product come to life. I’ve also discovered over time the importance of good storytelling and how that starts with Design. Creating a design language that is intuitive and emotionally resonant has more or less become my motis operandi.

James Oliver /  How important is the Olympics to you personally?

James Carnes / The Olympics is very important to me. It is the premier world stage for sport and my job is about making athletes better. I see the Olympics as the athletic equivalent of the United Nations – a venue where the playing field is leveled and each country has a voice. Being part of the Olympics is exciting and an honor. It gives adidas a great opportunity to continue to innovate and evolve the image of sport.

James Oliver /  Can you please introduce the concept behind adiZero Primeknit?

James Carnes / We are constantly innovating to bring superior performance products to the greatest athletes in the world.  Three years in the making, in designing the adizero Primeknit, our goal was to completely rethink how footwear is engineered, with a keen eye on sustainable construction.

James Oliver /  Where did you source the inspiration for the idea and can you explain the
process of design?

James Carnes / Years ago, adidas design team decided to collaborate with four industrial designers to take on the challenge of finding a completely new way to construct footwear that provides superior performance for athletes.  The team found a breakthrough solution from an unexpected source of inspiration  the furniture industry. The adidas team and industrial designer Alex Taylor discovered that with infusing new types of technological approaches commonly used for designing furniture, they could change how footwear is made.

James Oliver /  How does the technology represent the evolution of adidas?

James Carnes / As a brand, we are always innovating for superior performance. It’s in our DNA. Adi Dassler, our founder, created his first track spike for athletes in the Amsterdam Olympic Games in 1928. To follow his legacy, we always try to bring something new and game changing to the Olympics. This adizero Primeknit technology is pivotal in that it made us completely rethink how footwear can be engineered, with a focus on sustainable construction.

James Oliver / How important is the conceptual aspect of the design? How much did you think
about the aesthetic?

James Carnes / The conceptual aspect is extremely important. We wanted a shoe that explored new territory, broke with convention, and offered a more sustainable alternative to traditional construction; however, that does not mean that we neglected to think about aesthetic. We designed a shoe that embodies the energy of paradox – cutting edge technology with a pure and distilled aesthetic.